While the No. 11 seed Tennessee Volunteers aren't one of the favorites to reach the Final Four—Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver said the Volunteers have a 17 percent chance of making it there—don't be surprised when they do.
The Volunteers reached the Sweet 16 in the Midwest region by first defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the First Four, followed by their annihilation of both UMass and Mercer.
Led by junior forward Jarnell Stokes, who is averaging 20.3 points and 14.7 rebounds per game in the tournament, the Volunteers are hitting their stride when it matters most.
The Volunteers offense has been extremely potent thus far in the tournament. ESPN's John Gasaway (subscription required) reported the Volunteers are averaging 1.28 points per possession in the tournament. According to TeamRankings.com, 1.28 points per possession would have ranked first during the regular season.
A reason why the Volunteers have had such offensive success is they have been killing it on the offensive glass. In their game against Mercer, the Volunteers grabbed 41 boards, 18 on offense, while Mercer had just 19 rebounds.
This leads to a ton of second chance points and is a huge reason why the Volunteers' points per possession is so high.
The Volunteers take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Sweet 16 and even though it is a matchup of No. 11 and No. 2 seeds it is a close game on paper.
The Wolverines are led by sophomore guard Nik Stauskas, who is shooting 45.8 percent from three. The Wolverines have cruised to the Sweet 16 by beating both No. 15 seed Wofford and No. 7 seed Texas by double digits.
According to the Detroit Free Press' Mark Snyder, Michigan coach John Beilein believes the size and experience of the Volunteers will give Michigan problems.
The Volunteers' starting five is comprised of all upper classmen, while the Wolverines have only two upper classmen on their whole roster. Look for the experience factor to play a huge role, if the game is close late.
If the Volunteers can dominate the offensive glass like they have in the tournament and keep it close late into the game look for the Volunteers' experience to lead them to victory.
If the Volunteers get through Michigan then they are looking at the winner of Louisville and Kentucky. While both these teams are well regarded and have been highly ranked at different points in the season, the Volunteers are no strangers to beating good teams.
Back in December the Volunteers defeated the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers by 35 points. The Volunteers went 11-for-18 from three-point range while holding the Cavaliers to 2-for-12 from three-point range. The Volunteers proved they can play elite defense against an upper-echelon team.
ESPN's John Gasaway (subscription required) believes that the Volunteers have the best chance among the double digit seeds to reach the Final Four.
With the Volunteers' elite ability to rebound and score efficiently, they match up well with any team left in the tournament. Because of these factors, the Volunteers are poised to shock the world and make it to the Final Four. This will let fans finally forget about the days of Bruce Pearl and truly appreciate what Cuonzo Martin is building in Tennessee.
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